The tomato is a nutrient-dense, super-food. The tomato has been referred to as a “functional food,” a food that goes beyond providing just basic nutrition, additionally preventing chronic disease and delivering other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene.
Nutritional breakdown of tomatoes
- One medium tomato (approximately 123 grams) provides 22 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrate (including 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of sugar) and 1 gram of protein.
- Tomatoes are a rich source of Vitamin A and vitamin C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, Folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein.
- Tomatoes account for 80 percent of lycopene consumption.
- Cancer: As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.
- Prostate Cancer: Lycopene has been linked with prostate cancer prevention in several studies.7 According to John Erdman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, “There’s very good, strong, epidemiological support for increased consumption of tomato products and lower incidence of prostate cancer.”7
- Prostate Cancer: Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition.
- Colorectal Cancer: Beta-carotene consumption has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population. High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
- Blood pressure: Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation.3
- Heart health: The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health.
- Stroke: High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
- Diabetes: Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of cherry tomatoes provides about 2 grams of fiber.
- Skin: Collagen, the skins support system, is reliant on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke, smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.5
- Constipation: Eating foods that are high in water content and fiber like tomatoes can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Fiber is essential for minimizing constipation and adding bulk to the stool.
- Pregnancy: Adequate folic acid intake is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants.
- Depression: The folic acid in tomatoes may also help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.
- The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list each year of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen. Cherry tomatoes are high on the list of produce that the EWG suggests that you buy in the organic version to ensure a lower risk of pesticide exposure. If you can not afford organic, do not fret; the nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown (non-organic) produce far outweighs the risk of not eating produce at all.
- Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods such as tomatoes should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
- Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
- Those with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation when consuming highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, however individual reactions vary.
- It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is best to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
- Source: Ware, Megan, RDN, LD; “What are the health benefits of tomatoes?”, 30 August 2014, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031.php